What’s an “action timeline,” right?
Here’s the thing. Guest blogging is one of those strategies that require us to take care of a lot of different tasks and also be on top of multiple communications at different stages of advancement. In short, it’s really really easy to overlook something … for instance, not respond to an email in time, or forget to follow up on some guest post proposition altogether.
Depending on how important guest blogging is for your business, this can mean some serious consequences. And that’s not even in terms of lost traffic or revenue. Your relationships with partners can suffer as well. Just imagine how a blogger you’ve forgotten about would feel about working with you in the future.
Losing grasp on guest posts in progress was one of my problems a while ago. With over 20 posts in active development at any given time, it was way too easy to overlook a piece here and there. That’s why I built my own action timeline that (over time) has proven to make me much more effective at guest blogging. So I figured, hey, why not share it with you.
The what and how
Basically, the whole timeline is built to represent the path of a single guest post. Starting from the post being created (or first pitched), ending a couple of months after its publication. The nice part is that it can be multiplied for whatever number of guest posts you have going on at the same time.
Now, to actually use the timeline, we need a couple of tools. Nothing fancy, though. There are just two main tools plus a handful of plugins.
The first tool is something you probably already use. It’s Gmail. And with Gmail, it’s good to have three plugins installed. They are:
- Yesware. It lets you know what happens to your email after you click “send.” This means notifying you when the recipient opens your email, downloads your attachment, or performs any other kind of action. Great for checking if your emails are actually being read – crucial for pitching guest posts.
- Rapportive. A little spying tool to find out who you’re actually sending the email to. For example, when you’re emailing someone for the first time, Rapportive will let you know what’s the person’s name, social media profiles, and their position in the company. Using this sort of information in your email will make the conversation seem more personal.
- Boomerang. This plugin lets you schedule emails for later, and set reminders to follow up with people who haven’t responded.
FreeMind is where I keep the details of all of my guest posts, as well as their stage of advancement on the action timeline. Now, you don’t necessarily have to use the same tools as I do. If something has proven to work great for you then by all means stick with it. However, if you are looking for a change then FreeMind is possibly the tool you need.
Using Gmail for outreach
Whenever possible, I do my pitching through Gmail. The reason I’m saying this, even though it might sound obvious, is that as it turns out, there’s a lot of sites out there that only give you a contact form and no publicly available email address. So if all else fails, I will ultimately use the contact form, but I always try to find the actual email first.
Why? Because through Gmail I get to use the aforementioned plugins that make my life a lot easier later on when following up.
So, how to find the email if it’s not listed on the site publicly? I use Rapportive for that. What I do is start composing a new email (not intending to send it) and guess the email based on the domain name and the name of the editor/owner.
For example, if the domain is example.com and the editor’s name is John, I will try firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, as soon as I input this email, Rapportive will start doing its magic and trying to fetch other info about this email address. If the address exists, I will get the person’s profile like this:
This guessing game can take a couple of minutes, but I’d say that eight out of ten times I am able to find the editor’s email that way. I don’t know how Rapportive actually does this, but it just works!
Step #1. Pitching
I’ll skip the whole process of coming up with a topic for your guest post and doing research to find quality blogs and sites. We already covered that a couple of times in the past so let me just send you over to those posts for more info (e.g. here and here).
The step we’re starting with here is sending your initial pitch (or the whole complete article right away, if that’s the path you’ve chosen).
Once I have my pitch written, I send it out to the person and set a Boomerang reminder to 5-7 days. This means that after 5-7 days, Boomerang will return this email to me if the person doesn’t respond.
This allows me to follow up, or take some other form of action. But most of all, it allows me to not overlook the communication altogether.
(Additionally, in my mind map, I just take a note that I sent the pitch.)
Step #2: Following up
If the person I pitched didn’t respond and Boomerang returned the email to me, I send a follow up message immediately.
Not getting into details, I just ask if they saw my email and remind them what this is all about. When doing so, I also check Yesware to see if the person viewed the email.
Also, before sending the follow up, I set a Boomerang reminder again, this time to 10-14 days.
If the editor fails to respond this time too, I either send another follow up and set yet another reminder, or I drop the site altogether and try pitching another blogger. There’s no rule here, as every case is different.
Step #3: Saying thanks
If I am lucky and my post gets published, I make sure to send a thank you email to the editor. This is really quick and simple, yet it leaves a very positive impression.
It can also lead to some more opportunities later down the road if you stay in touch.
Step #4: Responding to comments
For the next 5-7 days, I make sure to keep coming back to the post every day in the morning and respond to the comments.
This does sound like a lot of work but it actually isn’t. It usually takes me around 15-20 minutes a day to go through all of my current guest posts.
Responding to comments can have a huge impact on your relationship with the editor and the blog’s audience in general. It really is one thing that’s a must-do here.
Step #5: Reaching out to influencers mentioned in the post
Two days after the article goes live, I go through every influencer I mentioned in it and let them know about the fact. This can either be a quick email or even a simple tweet like, “Hey @someone, I mentioned you in my latest post at site.com.”
The reason I don’t do this sooner is because I like to give the post a couple of days to get some initial traction – comments and shares. The influencer is much more likely to share it with their audience if the post is already being well received on the site.
Step #6: The final follow up
Two months after the guest post goes live, I go back and follow up with the editor. There’s really no template for this kind of follow up message. What I usually ask is how things are going, if they’re working on any interesting projects at the moment, and so on.
This sometimes leads to interesting opportunities that you’d never come across otherwise.
Just in the last two months, I was invited to take part in two interesting projects as a result of sending those final follow up messages.
Rinse and repeat
So that’s it. My whole action timeline. I hope this has been helpful! Also, feel free to comment in case anything needs clarifying.